A Dane County judge has delayed ruling on a lawsuit that challenges whether the state has the right to stop farms from selling raw milk directly to consumers. The court was scheduled Tuesday to take up a request by state agriculture officials to throw out a lawsuit by Grassway Organic Farm.
The suit claims Grassway’s operation, which allows consumers to be part owners of the farm, in is accordance with guidelines from a 1993 Wisconsin law and 2002 court ruling, co-owner Kay Craig tells WRN. The procedure, which has members drawing the unpasteurized product directly from the bulk tank, has been in place since 2005 according to Craig, who says ag officials have had full knowledge of their operation since day one. State regulators even allowed their retail license to be renewed 2007.
As part of a biannual examination, inspectors came to their operation again in 2009, “all smiles, no violations…a week later we got a certified letter saying they would no longer renew our retail license because we were selling raw milk,” says the dairy farmer. However the Virginia based Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, who is representing Craig and her husband, says the farm does not need a retail license because sales go directly to members.
Raw milk was a hot issue last legislative session as a bill to legalize limited sales of the product cleared lawmakers but was vetoed by the Governor. “The bill came as a responsive to the aggressive tactics, for lack of a better word, against seven to eight farmers in Wisconsin,” says Craig who includes her operation in that grouping. She says the push for raw milk legalization was from consumers who wanted the choice.
Opponents of legalizing raw milk consumption say it is unsafe to individuals and an outbreak of illness could harm the reputation of the state’s dairy industry.